Turning Japanese – sushi and sashimi

I have been on a bit of a Japanese binge lately which culminated with a sushi and sashimi cookery class this week.

Japanese cuisine has seen something of a revolution over the last decade with demand for high quality sashimi, maki rolls and miso soup booming.

But long before Yo Sushi and Wasabi got in on the action, one woman from Wimbledon was quietly leading the charge from her own kitchen.

Reiko Hashimoto was born in Kyoto and grew up in a traditional Japanese family where food was at the heart of the home and set up Hashi Cooking ten years ago after moving to London.

With cookery courses ranging from beginner to gourmet and classes in sushi to canapés and dumplings there is something for any far eastern food fanatic to enjoy.

In a bid to learn more about Japanese cooking (and how to satisfy my love of sushi without having to shell out pounds on a pre-packed lunch) I joined one of her popular Saturday morning sushi and sashimi classes at her home in Wimbledon Park alongside just seven participants.

Reiko enthusiastically took us through the basics of making sushi rice (which is surprisingly more complex than you might imagine) and how to roll fresh avocado, mackerel and salmon into delicious inside out rolls, maki and nigiri.

She then gave us through a lesson in making a Japanese omelette (Tomago), how to make miso soup and showed us how to carefully prepare sashimi during the four hour class.

I had been put off of Tomago, the luminous yellow cube of sponge like substance that sits atop a block of rice in supermarket packs.

But made fresh in a traditional pan it was absolutely delicious seasoned with dashi powder (a traditional Japanese fish stock) mirin, caster sugar and soy sauce, and was my favourite discovery of the session.

Reiko would not be drawn on which of the capital’s Japanese restaurants she deemed to be the best, especially when, I am politely reminded, she can cook it all at home herself at half the cost.

But she did have some words for supermarket sushi packs which she said are worlds apart from stacking up against quality Japanese sushi.

By the end of the class we have managed to collectively roll enough sushi for a small army and sit down to enjoy a veritable feast of sashimi, all manner of sushi rolls, sake and miso soup.

I am more than full but filled with a new found enthusiasm for Japanese cooking, eager to rush out and buy myself a Japanese square omelette pan and run around making endless rounds of sushi.

The class was very enjoyable, informative, perfectly suited to a complete novice and set in a relaxed environment – a quality Reiko prides herself on.

She said: “Because I run it from home I can’t take many people and do a big class, but that’s not what I’m looking for.

“I like to offer people the relaxing atmosphere of an ‘at home’ class.

“Sushi is a dish that people can have a go at by looking in a book, but I think it’s always good to witness how it’s done.

“French or Italian is Western cooking so people are used to it but most people have no idea how to cook Japanese food.

“If I wanted to learn French cooking I would want to learn from a French person, and you can talk more about the cultural background of the food which can be very interesting.”

Reiko’s cookbook, Hashi- a Japanese Cookery Course, is available to buy now.

For more information on her courses visit hashicooking.co.uk

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